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Archive for the ‘Cooking’ Category

In the past week I’ve put up okra, tomatoes and cabbage (all separate endeavors, by the way) but since I’ve written about different ways of canning tomatoes, I thought I’d share how we put up okra and cabbage.

I dearly love fried okra, but couldn’t find a method that suited me in terms of not only taste, but ease. One of my cousins was known for her “fresh tasting” fried okra – even in the dead of winter! So I learned to fix it her way – and you know what? It is both extremely easy AND delicious!

So – now this is how I fix okra for the freezer. Wash and slice okra as if you were preparing a meal.

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Next bread the okra with meal (one thing I do differently is I add purple onions – delicious!)

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Next, fry up in a big ole cast iron skillet using your oil of choice. (Bacon grease adds that extra special Southern flavor – but you can use other oil if you must… and I guess you could use another frying pan – but be careful about too many changes there, lol!)

Don’t salt or add other seasonings to the okra as it’s frying. Fry it until it is *almost* as crisp as you’d like for serving then drain on paper towels.

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After it has drained and cooled, spread it on a parchment lined baking sheet (in a single layer if possible) and freeze for 2-3 hours.

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After it has quick frozen, fill freezer bags and return to the freezer. By preparing the okra this way you can fill gallon bags and only take out as much as needed for a meal (even a single serving!)

To prepare for serving, pour desired amount into a baking dish, add salt and pepper to taste, and cover with foil (no need to thaw first).  Bake for about 30 minutes (depending on amount preparing) @350° or until it is hot throughout and as crisp as desired. You can remove the foil if needed for the last few minutes.

I love preparing okra this way. I can spend one or two days frying okra and have enough for all winter! Serving it is quick, easy AND delicious!

 

Now for putting up cabbage. A few weeks ago I harvested 12 heads of cabbage, soaked them in salt water to remove any unwelcomed visitors, put them in plastic bags and stuck them in an extra fridge. I’ve given several away, but prepared a couple for us yesterday. I cut them up and blanched in boiling water for a couple of minutes, then immediately plunged into ice water.

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And because I like onions in nearly everything, I also blanched some purple onions, too.

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After draining the cabbage I put some of the leafier pieces in the dehydrator and spread the other with onions on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.

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I quick froze this just like the okra, but I vacuum sealed it in smaller bags. Some I’ll fry as a side dish, and some I’ll add to soups. I stored the dehydrated cabbage in a half-gallon jar. Amazing, about six trays if cabbage yielded this little dab if cabbage. But it will be great when I want just a little extra cabbage in my soup.

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Add to the okra and cabbage these tomatoes and there you have it – just another week on the farm! #farmstewardship

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If you look in the background of many of my cooking photos you’ll find cast iron – and lots of it! This post is about how to maintain it and use it every day!

On a Facebook page someone asked about purchasing some cast iron skillets – if they were a “good price”. I asked if she was purchasing them for the value or to use them. She replied that she wanted to start using cast iron again as it had been many years since she had.

Many people love the idea of using cast iron, but either are afraid to use it or simply don’t know how to care for it. I’ve used cast iron my whole life, so I thought I’d share how I care for mine. Note – this is simply maintaining their use. If you are buying antique cast iron, I’d recommend getting a lead-testing kit from your local hardware store to check if the cast iron has been used for other purposes in the past. I bought the dutch oven in the photo above at an antique tractor show. Before I used it I scrubbed it and tested it for lead – and now it’s a “daily user” in my kitchen!

I love cooking in my cast iron skillets. I have a dozen or so varying size skillets, a couple of Dutch ovens and a “chicken fryer”. Most of these have come from my and my husband’s parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. Who knows how old they are. Many people avoid using cast iron because they say it is a pain to maintain, or it sticks. If it sticks, it is not seasoned properly – and the maintenance is not as bad as you might think. Cast iron is the original “non-stick” cookware. It is actually beneficial to your health to cook in cast iron – plus – you don’t get any of those “Teflon-y” particles in your food!

There are varying opinions on whether one should wash cast iron – my mother always did, therefore, so do I. (I make too much gravy not to wash mine!) If you have really cruddy cast iron, have bought flea-market cast iron, or your cast iron sticks horribly – you might want to strip it and re-season. There are several YouTube videos that explain the process; however the best videos (and recipes) are from “The Culinary Fanatic” (Jeffrey B. Rogers).

For a quick and easy re-seasoning process, or for just occasional maintenance of your cast iron you can do the following (this is how I season mine):

Wash your cast iron in mild warm soapy water, using a plastic “scrubby” if necessary. Rinse and dry with a paper towel. Wipe the cast iron lightly with Crisco, covering well, but not gobbed on. Place the cast iron in the oven set on 200° for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, wipe the cast iron with paper towels or an old dishrag and then place it back in the oven – upside down – and increase the heat to 300° for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes, wipe the cast iron again, and return to the oven increased to 400° for two hours. If your cast iron still sticks, check your recipe or method of cooking (right temperature for what you’re cooking, or maybe trying to turn the food too soon – that often is the cause).

If possible, simply wipe the cast iron after use, but if food is stuck on or you make a lot of gravy, too – then wash it, wipe very lightly with Crisco and place in a hot oven for just a few minutes each time you use it.

Just a few photos of things I cook in my cast iron:

 

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First of all “Dinner” at our house means the noon meal (Jesus and the disciples ate “The Last Supper” – not the last dinner… but I digress…)

I needed to fix a quick dinner and didn’t have time to fry the thawed fish and to bake potatoes like I wanted, so I opted to bake the fish, and tried a new way of baking potatoes.

I had some huge baking potatoes so I cut one in two, rubbed on a little bacon grease (you could use butter) and placed it face down in a cast iron skillet. I put it in a preheated 400° oven and baked for 25 -30 minutes.

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While that was baking, I lined a baking pan with foil and poured in a little olive oil. I dipped and turned the pan until I made sure the oil spread over the entire surface. Next I sprinkled lemon pepper on the pan and laid the fish on top. (I’m not sure what kind of fish this is, I traded a friend some tomatoes for fish last summer. They caught it in the river near their house.)

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I sprinkled lemon thyme, salt and pepper over the fish then turned it to coat it with the olive oil. Next I put a sliver of butter on each piece and sprinkled with bread crumbs.

(Make your own bread crumbs by saving the “heel” pieces of light bread, keeping them in the freezer until you have several. Dehydrate them and then crush to your desired consistancy. Keep the crumbs in a jar in the freezer. Easy and cheap!)

I baked the fish for about 20 minutes @ 400°. It turned out great!

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I forgot to take a picture of the potatoes when they came out of the oven (hubby came in and was hungry!) They were beautifully golden brown, but, this is how mine looked covered with cheese and ranch dressing (when I finally remembered to take a picture).

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I’ll definitely be adding this recipe to my recipe book!

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Our garden is coming along nicely, but until I need to start canning garden produce, I thought I’d take this opportunity to can up some beef and vegetables, and some full blown vegetable beef soup.

I started last night by putting about 5-6 pounds of beef stew in the crockpot.

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In hindsight, I really didn’t need to precook the beef stew. If I was using a roast, I would need to precook so I could remove any fat from it.

This afternoon (after working in the garden all morning) I began peeling and cutting up vegetables. I cut up about 12 cups of potatoes, 6 cups of carrots and 6 cups of celery. I divided these up about 60/40 between 2 pots because I was going to add lots of other vegetables to the soup and also wanted a few jars of just beef, potatoes, carrots and celery together.

To the soup pot I added about 2-3 cups each of: chopped onions, frozen peas, and frozen whole kernel corn. I also added about 1-2 cups frozen green beans and 3 quarts of canned tomatoes. I seasoned to taste with salt and pepper and added about 1 tsp thyme and 2 bay leaves.

And then I added the meat.

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I strained the broth from the crockpot and removed as much of the fat as possible. This little cup allows the broth to be poured from the bottom, thus avoiding the fat on top!

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After this I let both pots come to a boil, then reduced the heat and let it simmer about 30-40 minutes while I got the pressure canner and jars ready.

I filled the jars with the beef mixture first since there wasn’t as much of it and any amount less than a jar full could be added to the soup.

I had 5 jars of beef mixture and filled two more with the soup mixture. Since both of these had meat they would need to pressure 90 minutes @ 11lbs pressure (for our altitude) and could pressure together.

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I wiped the rims with a papertowel dampened with vinegar and sealed.

Afrer the first canner came off I filled the next set of jars with soup. All together I had 5 jars of beef mixture and 9 jars of vegetable beef soup. All I need to do for a quick meal is cook some cornbread and open and heat a jar! I love it!

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(The jars to the left are chili that I canned last week.)

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For quick meals we love chicken patty sandwiches, but I don’t like the additives and sodium in store-bought chicken patties, so I decided to make my own.

I started with boneless chicken breasts. Slice them in two (I think that’s called “butterfly”). Then cut each half in two. You’ll likely end up with some smaller “nugget” size pieces as well.

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Sort the pieces according to size and put in plastic bags to marinate. (If you’d like a “Chick-fil-a” taste, marinate for a couple of hours in dill pickle juice… yes, dill pickle juice! But, I like my marinade better).

This is my “go-to marinate for chicken:

Adjust the amounts depending on how much chicken you’re preparing. I did about 14 whole breasts this time.

Squeezed lemon wedges (or a couple tbsp lemon juice)

2 tbsp roasted garlic chunks or powder

2 tsp dry mustard

2 tsp smoked paprika

2 tsp lemon thyme

1 tsp cumin

Dash cayenne powder (opt)

Salt and pepper

Marinate a couple of hours or overnight

To cook: In a shallow bowl mix 1-2 eggs with 1/4 cup buttermilk. In another bowl, mix 1/2 – 1 cup bread crumbs and 1/2 – 1 cup flour for breading (instructions on making your own bread crumbs following this recipe)

Line a baking sheet with foil and place a rack on the foil. Preheat oven to 450°

Dip chicken in egg mixture, then in breading. Place on baking rack, and bake for about 6-8 minutes per side.

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While these are baking, heat a large cast iron skillet then add cooking oil of choice. Remove the chicken from oven and place in hot oil to “crisp”. This should take about 3-4 minutes per side.

(Note: you could bake the chicken completely done – it would take about 10-12 minutes per side – or fry the chicken to start with. By baking, then frying allows the chicken to get good and done, without having to fry so long and risk drying out.)

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Drain chicken on paper towels and let cool. After they’ve cooled, place them on a parchment lined baking sheet and freeze for a couple of hours, then put them in freezer bags and freeze.

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Heat and serve for a quick meal!

 

Homemade bread crumbs

I save all the “heel” pieces from loaves of bread i  the freezer until I have about 16-18 pieces. Dehydrate the bread until very crisp. Place in a ziplock bag and crush with a rolling pin. Keep crumbs in the freezer.

I just HATE throwing anything out!

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This is a staple at our house for gatherings like Christmas or summertime. I’ve included instructions for preparing the major portion one day and serving later.

Ingredients:

1 whole beef flank steak

Chicken breasts sliced or tenders

1/2 cup olive oil

1 tbsp worchestershire sauce

1/3 cup lime juice, fresh squeezed

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp cumin

1 tbsp chili powder

Dash red pepper flakes

1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper (to taste)

1 tbsp sugar

2 medium onions, halved and sliced

Veggies:

Sweet peppers (various colors) sliced

Onions (white and purple)

Jalapenos

Preparation:

In a dish, mix together olive oil, worchestershire sauce, lime juice, garlic, cumin, chili powder, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, and sugar until combined. Divide the marinade into thirds.

Place flank steak in a 2 gallon plastic bag, add about a third of the marinade, turning to coat. In another bag place the chicken with another third of the marinade, also turning to coat, and in yet another bag, place all the veggies, with the remaining marinade, turning to coat as well. Place bags in fridge for at least 2 hours or overnight.

 

Preheat oven to 300°. Line 2 baking sheets with foil; place the meat on racks on the foil.20160102_113406

20160102_123848(Separate pans for beef and chicken, of course). Cook beef until 130° (125° for med-rare). For a 2-2 1/2 lb steak, this should take 40 minutes. Let the meat rest for 15 minutes.

Heat a heavy cast iron skillet or grill pan over high heat and drizzle in some oil or some butter. Sear the beef on each side for about 2 minutes per side. Remove and add a small pat of butter.

For the chicken, bake about 30-40 minutes until 145°. Pat dry. Reheat the skillet and add additional butter and then sear the chicken about 2 minutes per side until as brown as desired. To serve later, let the meat cool, then slice and refrigerate.20160102_125913 To serve, about 3-4 hours before serving, place beef and chicken in separate crockpots, and turn on low.

The veggies can be cooked the day before and reheated, or sauteed the “day of” since it doesn’t take long to cook them. Again, drizzle olive oil in an iron skillet (either grill pan or smooth) and cook the veggies a few minutes until they’re cooked, but still slightly firm and have nice black/brown pieces. 20160102_135430Remove to a plate and set aside.

Heat tortillas and have other side items (diced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, black beans, rice, sour cream, cheeses, etc) for a “build your own” meal.

 

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This is absolutely delicious – and SO very easy to do!

Wash a fresh or thawed roasting chicken and remove giblets if there are any inside. Blot the chicken dry. Slice an onion and and place it in a cast iron dutch oven or skillet. Put the chicken on top of the onion (it cooks quicker in the dutch oven due to being down in the pot).

Melt about 1/2 stick of butter and add seasonings to it – I like roasted garlic, lemon thyme, about a half of a squeezed lemon (you can put the leftover lemon rine in the cavity of the chicken), salt and pepper and a little bit of chili powder. (Rosemary or sage is also good). Rub or pour this over the chicken, covering well. Then I sprinkle a little smoked paprika on top.

Bake 15 minutes at 475, then reduce to 350 and bake for approx 20 minutes per pound. Bake uncovered unless it starts to get too brown – in that case top with foil or a lid cocked to the side.

Chicken is done when internal temp registers 180.

Let it rest about 10 minutes and serve.

By the way – save the drippings and make gravy or for chicken broth to can or freeze.

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